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Collaborating for South Asian Mental Health

The Collaborative for South Asian Mental Health at CAMH officially launched in May. The Collaborative is made up of a group of Toronto-based researchers, service providers and policy makers who are committed to developing a focused research strategy to improve the mental health of South Asian communities.

This inaugural event was opened by Dr. Rani Srivastava, CAMH Chief of Nursing and Professional Practice, who shared her thoughts on the role of the collaborative in advancing the mental health and well-being of South Asian communities. Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CAMH Medical Director of Underserved Populations, Access & Transitions gave a thought provoking keynote presentation, concluding that we actually have more questions than answers when it comes to the mental health of South Asian communities in Canada.

Four speakers took part in a rapid round panel that highlighted key areas of action:

· Farrah Khan, a Counsellor at the Barbara Schlifer Clinic provided insights on best practice when working with young South Asians that identify as LGBTQ.

· Dr. Farah Islam, CAMH SAMI Postdoctoral Fellow, provided a snapshot of self reported well being amongst South Asian youth in Ontario. Drawing on data from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey Dr. Islam highlighted key concerns about safety and substance use among young immigrant South Asian women.

· Dr. Vathsala Jayasuriya from Ryerson University is the National Project Manager of Strength in Unity, a project addressing stigma of mental illness amongst Asian communities. Her research explores the application of acceptance and commitment therapy to increase psychological flexibility and reduce self stigma.

· Dr. Nalini Pandalangat, Director of the Newcomer Health Program at Sherbourne Health Centre, told us about the important role of research in scaling up inclusive mental health services for South Asian communities.

The event was closed by Neethan Shan, Executive Director of CASSA, who commended The Collaborative for taking this important step to improve the mental well-being of South Asian communities.

The energy in the room, and discussions held online were phenomenal, with attendees highlighting a number of key areas that require research action. It’s time for research to contribute to improving the mental health of South Asian communities in Toronto and beyond!

For updates on this initiative, follow The Collaborative on Twitter @SouthAsian_MH. If you have any questions please contact Gursharan Virdee at gursharan.virdee@camh.ca.